WACO, Texas (AP) — A federal report shows that a Veteran Affairs office in Texas has denied more than 90 percent of benefit claims related to Gulf War illnesses.
The data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that Waco's Department of Veterans Affairs denied almost 1,100 claims in 2015.
A lack of a clear definition of Gulf War illness has led to issues in processing claims, the Austin American-Statesman (https://atxne.ws/2uitjm0 ) reported.
Gulf War illness has two main clinical categories: medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness and undiagnosed illness.
Exposure to toxic elements — such as smoke from burning oil wells, depleted uranium and chemical warfare agents — are believed to have caused Gulf War illnesses.
The VA estimates about 44 percent of the 700,000 Gulf War service members have developed symptoms that include joint pain, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological problems. Only 26 percent of those veterans receive benefits.
"(Gulf War illness) disability compensation claim laws and regulations need urgent overhaul," said Paul Sullivan, director of veteran outreach for the Bergmann and Moore law firm. He's a Gulf War veteran whose own illness claim remains unresolved after 25 years.
Government investigators found the VA doesn't properly educate medical examiners that are tasked with identifying the illness. As of February, 10 percent of medical examiners had completed a 90-minute web-based training course designed to help them better identify the illness.
"Several VA staff noted the complexity of Gulf War illness claims and some medical examiners stated they would benefit from additional training on Gulf War illness and how to conduct these exams," office officials said in the report.
The VA has made the training course mandatory. A VA spokeswoman said Waco medical examiners are anticipated to complete the training by November.
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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com